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Are Landlords Liable for Tenant Injuries Caused by Defects on the Property?

Injury Attorneys Protecting Tenants and Landlords in Troy, Sarasota, Albany and all of Upstate New York

calculating cost of tenant injuries

Each year, a number of New York tenants suffer injury as a result of one or more defects in the property that they have rented from a landlord. Sometimes, the injuries are minor; on other occasions, they are significant, resulting in medical bills, lost time from work, and heightened levels of pain and suffering. While New York generally does not impose “strict liability” upon landlords, it does allow recovery of damages in some cases. An injured tenant should consider a number of issues in determining whether he or she has a valid claim against the landlord.

Creation of a Dangerous Condition

New York state (and sometimes local) law requires that landlords keep their properties in good repair and maintain those properties in a reasonably safe condition. Where the landlord creates a dangerous condition that leads to a tenant’s injury, the landlord can be held responsible. For example, if a landlord diverts runoff water in such a fashion that it produces an icy sidewalk, he or she may be liable for resulting slips and falls.

Actual Notice of a Dangerous Condition

In some cases, a dangerous condition can exist that was not actually created by the landlord. If the landlord has actual notice of the dangerous condition, he or she may be liable for ensuing injuries. Proof of notice can be shown in a number of different forms. For example, if a tenant has advised the landlord in writing that a defect exists and it goes unremedied, a court would usually determine that there was sufficient notice. If a tenant can show a prior injury by someone else, that can also supply notice to the landlord.

Constructive Notice of the Condition

Actual notice to the landlord may be excused where the defect is visible and where it has existed for a sufficient period of time that a reasonable landlord should have discovered it and taken corrective action. New York courts have held that a “general awareness” that an unsafe condition might exist does not constitute sufficient notice to the landlord that would support a claim of damages.

Assumption of Risk

While New York law obligates the landlord to take reasonable steps to avoid injury to a tenant, the tenant also has obligations, as well. The Empire State follows the well-established rule that if a person, such as a tenant, is aware of a risk and proceeds to act freely in spite of that risk, he or she assumes the risk that follows. In other words, if the tenant is aware that a railing is loose, he or she can’t be said to complain if leaning against it causes injury. A tenant generally cannot “assume” a hidden risk.

Comparative Negligence

New York premises liability law employs a comparative negligence rule in determining the measure of damages that might be owed by a landlord to an injured tenant. Generally speaking, a tenant is not prevented from recovering damages if he or she is partially responsible. In essence, the court or jury determines the percentage of relative fault and the tenant’s recovery is reduced in proportion to the tenant’s measure of fault. For example, if a jury found that the landlord was 75 percent responsible for the injury and the tenant was 25 percent responsible, the tenant would be allowed to recover 75 percent of his or her damages.

Prompt Investigation of the Incident is Important

Where a premises defect may have caused a personal injury to a tenant or to a tenant’s guest, it is extremely important that the tenant initiate a prompt and thorough investigation of the premises. Unfortunately, most tenants are ill equipped to undertake such an effort. It is advisable to retain the services of a skilled and experienced legal team to handle this task and to begin to collect other evidence that may be helpful in successfully resolving the claim.

E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy: Award-Winning Attorneys in the Greater Capital Region

The personal injury attorneys at E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy have the judgment and experience to handle your premises liability claim. We understand that a serious injury impacts not only the victim, but also the victim’s family and lifestyle. We have the skill, resources, and tenacity to take your case to trial if necessary. We offer compassionate counsel in difficult times.

We are one of the most highly respected law firms in upstate New York and the capital district. We have been representing clients for more than a hundred years; our law practice has stood the test of time. Make the right call. Call us now at (518) 274-5820 or complete our online form. The E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy law firm has an attorney available to assist clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – even on holidays.